New book features Irish officers in British forces
A MILITARY Historian from Courtown has published a book titled 'Irish Officers in the British Forces, 1922 - 45', which features officers with strong Wexford connections such as Lieutenant Commander Eugene Esmonde VC, and Major General David O Morchoe.
Dr. Steven O'Connor, who moved to Gorey from Dublin in 1999 at the age of 15 and who sat his Junior Cert and Leaving Cert exams in Gorey Community School, is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of History at Trinity College Dublin.
The new book, published by Palgrave Macmillan, will be launched by retired Major General David O Morchoe from Tara Hill, on May 15 next in TCD.
Steven currently lives near Courtown, and said he owes a lot to his Gorey Community School teacher Liz Russell for her support during his time at the school.
He said that the book is the first to trace the continuation of Irish recruitment to the British forces after the foundation of the Irish Free State and its own army in 1922.
The book shows that at least a third of the southern Irish officers joining the British forces in this period, were from Catholic middle class backgrounds.
'It explains the officers' reasons for joining, including family traditions, the school influence, a desire for adventure and the need for employment,' he said, adding that the book also reveals the British army's special recognition for its Irish soldiers by celebrating St. Patrick's Day, facilitating Catholic worship, and encouraging the singing of 'The Soldier's Song' and 'Kevin Barry', in the 38th (Irish) Brigade.
Garda reports, British Legion records, and local newspapers used in the book demonstrate that enlistment in the British forces was not generally seen as controversial in independent Ireland. 'Indeed, in many communities around the country, a career in the British military was highly respected and valued,' said Steven.
He used archival research, oral testimony, and a database of 1,000 officers to examine the reasons why young Irish people took the King's commission.
Steven specialises in British-Irish military connections, and currently holds a Government of Ireland Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Centre for Contemporary Irish History at TCD. He previously held a Government of Ireland Postgraduate Fellowship at the Centre for War Studies at UCD, where he completed his PhD in 2012.